An Underpromotion Study

One of my main interests of study of chess is underpromotion, the reasons why such an underpromotion is not only possible, but of necessity.

The most common underpromotion is that to a knight, which makes up over 90% of all such underpromotions (the other two are rook and bishop, in that order of popularity).

If player has to underpromote to a knight the most probable explanation is that he is trying to prevent a fork, check, skewer, or pin by his opponent.

This has happened in Master chess. But only rarely. And even rarer is when it happens more than once during a game.

Here is a delightful example.

Zurakhov-Koblenc
USSR Ch., 1/2 Final
Tbilisi, 1956

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 gxf6 7.Nf3 b6 8.Bc4 Bb7 9.Qe2 c6 10.O-O (10.O-O-O is ECO’s suggestion.) 10…Nd7 11.a4 f5?! 12.Ng3 Kf8 (Obviously Black doesn’t want to castle kingside. But the text is not any better.)


13.Bxe6! fxe6 14.Qxe6 Nf6 15.Nxf5 Bc8 16.Qe5 Bxf5 17.Qxf5 Qd5 18.Qf4
(>18.Ne5!) 18…Rg8 19.Rae1 Rg4 20.Qh6+ Kg8 21.Rxe7 Qxf3 22.g3 Rg6 23.Qh3 Qg4 24.Qxg4 Rxg4 25.c3 Re4 26.Rxe4 Nxe4 27.Re1 Re8 28.f3 Nd6 29.Rxe8+ Nxe8 30.Kf2 Nd6 31.b3 b5 32.Ke3 bxa4 33.bxa4 Nc4+ 34.Ke4 Kf7 35.d5 c5 36.f4 a5 37.f5 Nb6 38.d6 Ke8 39.f6 Kf7?! (Black missing 39…Nxa4!) 40.Ke5 Nd7+ 41.Kd5 Kxf6 42.g4 c4 43.Kc6 Ke6 44.g5 Nf8 45.h4 Nd7 46.h5 Ne5+ 47.Kc7 Kf5 48.Kb6 Ke6! (48…Kxg5? 49.Kxa5 and Black’s king and knight separated and White’s pawns will rapidly advance.) 49.Kxa5 Kxd6 50.Kb6 Nd7+ 51.Kb5 Kc7 52.Kxc4 Ne5+ 53.Kd5 Nf3 54.g6 hxg6 55.hxg6?! (After 55.h6! Ng5, the kingside is locked up and White can concentrate on the queenside with moves like 56.c4.) 55…Nh4 56.g7 Nf5

57.g8=N (This knight underpromotion is to prevent a fork that follows after 57.g8=Q? Ne7+, winning the queen and White is also down a pawn.) 57…Kb6 58.Kc4 Ne3+ 59.Kb3 Nd5 60.c4 Nc7 61.Nf6 Ne6 62.Ne4 Nc7 63.Nf2 Ne6 64.Nd3 Nd4+ 65.Kc3 Ne2+ 66.Kb4 Nd4 67.c5+ Ka6 68.Kc4 Nf5 69.Kd5 Kb7 70.Nb4 (70.c6+? Kc7 with the idea of Ne7+, equalizing.) 70…Ne3+ 71.Kd4 Nf5+ 72.Kc4 Ne3+ 73.Kb5 Kc7 74.a5 Nf5 75.Nd5+ Kb7 76.c6+ Ka7 77.c7 Kb7 (The White knight is keeping the Black’s knight out of play.) 78.a6+ Ka7


79.c8=N+
(Another knight promotion for the same reason. 79.c8=Q? Nd6+, and White is going to find winning the game an extremely hard thing to do. It should also be mentioned that 79.Kc5!! also wins. But the second knight promotion is so beautiful!) 79…Kb8 80.Kb6 (White now threatens 81.a7! , winning the game with his last pawn.) 1-0

A Brilliant End (almost)

It has been said that high ranking (say, Expert and above), resign too soon. This means that the high-ranking player (H-RP), finding that he is two pawns down (and sometimes even less than that), realizes that he cannot save his game against another H-RP and rather than waste two hours trying to save the game, or be the object of embarrassment or ridicule, he gently tips his king over, shakes the hand of his opponent, and gracefully resigns.

But there are times when the spectators want to see the rest of the game. They may have paid to see the tournament or match and they want the full value for their money.

Some want to root for the underdog, the one would not give up. After all, there is some romantic aspect about a fighter who refuses to give up.

Some spectators want to see blood spilled. They want the winner to effect the eventual mate by the most forceful, brutal way.

Finally, in case of a potentially brilliant game, many spectators they want to see the full display of sparking moves and crafty play from beginning to end. And maybe tell their grandchildren about it.

To be sure, these resignations, where spectators might reasonably want the game to continue, happen more than you might think. Let me give you an example.

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Escalante-“crisbatiti”
Blitz game
chess.com, Sept. 9 2020
[C62]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4

[Of course, White has other moves he can try.

I. Palacio (2172)-IM D. Charochkina (2356)
Titled Tuesday
chess.com, Aug. 4 2020
4.c3 Bd7 5.d4 a6 6.Ba4 b5 7.Bb3 Na5 8.Bc2 Qe7 9.O-O g6 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Bg5 (>11.a4) 11…Nf6 12.Nbd2 Bg7 13.Qe2 O-O 14.Rad1 Rfe8 15.Rfe1 Rad8 16.Nf1 Nc4 17.b3 Nb6 18.Ne3 Bc6 19.Rxd8 Qxd8 20.Rd1 Qc8 21.Bxf6 Bxf6 22.h3 h5 23.Nd5 Bxd5 24.exd5 e4 25.Bxe4 Bxc3 26.Qc2 Bg7 27.Bd3 Qd7 28.Qc6 Rd8 29.Be4?? (29.Qb7!) 29…Qxc6 (And 30.dxc6 Rxd1+ 31.Kh2 f5.) 0-1.

But I prefer 4.d4, which is more simple and direct. It’s a personal preference.]

4…Bd7 5.O-O Nge7

[ECO give this game: Grohotov-Balashov, USSR, 1968, 5.O-O exd4 6.Nxd4 g6!? 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.f4 c5 9.Ne2 f5 10.exf5 gxf5 11.Ng3 Qf6 12.Bd2 Bg7 13.Bc3 Qf7 14.Bxg7 Qxg7 15.Re1+ Ne7 16.Qe2 +/=]

6.d5 Nb8 7.Qe2 f5?! (This move creates a weakness after the bishops are traded.) 8.Bxd7+ Nxd7 9.c4 Nf6 10.Nc3 Rc8 11.Bg5 (11.Ng5! is quicker in disrupting Black’s position and plans.) 11…Ng6 12.exf5 Ne7 13.Bxf6 (13.Rae1 is another strong plan. But as mentioned before, I prefer direct and simple moves.) 13…gxf6 14.Nh4 (14.Nxe5!? should be analyzed more.) 14…h5 15.f4 Qd7 16.fxe5 dxe5 (16…fxe5? and now 17.Ne4! is much stronger.) 17.Ne4 Bg7 18.Ng6 (The immediate 18.Rae1 is stronger.) 18…Rh6 19.Nc5! (After causing chaos on the kingside, White attacks on the queenside and center.) 19…Qd6 20.Ne6 Bh8 21.Nxe7 (21.Qd2!) 21…Qxe7 22.c5! Kd7? (> 22…Bg7) 23.Rad1 (While the text move is good, 23.Qb5+! is decisive. But I wanted to push my d5-pawn.) 23…Qf7 24.Qb5+ c6 25.dxc6+ Ke8 26.cxb7+ Ke7


1-0 (Black resigned before White could play 27.bxc8=N#!!. This is a move I would be proud to show off. And not just to any future grandkids.)

An Underpromotion Story

I enjoy games with underpromotions. 

Here is one of my favorite games. You’ll see that not all underpromotions are necessary, or even good.

 

A GM learns this lesson the hard way.

 

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GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2784)-
GM Hikaru Nakamura (2792)
Blitz Game
Paris Grand Chess Tour
France, June 25 2017
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 O-O 5.Bg5 c5 6.e3 cxd4 7.exd4 d5 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Be2 h6

[This position has occurred a few times before in Grandmaster chess, the latest two being, surprisingly, other blitz games. (1) 9.Be2 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.Bg3 Ne4 12.Rc1 Nc6 13.O-O Bxc3 14.bxc3 Bf5 15.Ne5 Rc8 16.f4 Nxe5 17.fxe5 Qd7 18.Bd3 Kg7 19.Qf3 Bg6 20.c4 dxc4 21.Bxe4 Qxd4+ 22.Kh1 Qxe4 23.Qf6+ Kh7 24.Rce1 Qd4 25.Rd1 Bd3 26.Qe7 Qd5 27.Rf6 c3 28.Rd6 c2 29.Rc1 Qe4 30.Qf6 Kg8 31.Qxh6 Qf5 32.Rf6 Rc6 33.h3 Rxf6 34.exf6 Qg6 35.Qxg6+ Bxg6 36.Kg1 Rd8 0-1 [GM A. Tari (2584)-GM Wei Yi (2707), World Blitz, Doha, Qayar, Dec. 29 2016], and (2) 9.Be2 h6 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.O-O Bxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.Re1 b6 14.Nd2 Be6 15.Nf1 Na5 16.Ne3 Rac8 17.Rc1 Rfd8 18.Bd3 Rc7 19.g3 g6 20.Ng2 Nc4 21.Rc2 Re7 22.Qc1 Bf5 23.Rxe7 Bxd3 24.Rxa7 g5 25.Rd2 Nxd2 26.Qxd2 Be4 27.Ne1 Re8 28.a4 Bf3! 0-1 (White loses fastest with 29.Nxf3? Qxf3, with the idea of 30…Rd2. But even with the better 29.h3 Re2 30.Qd1 g4 31.hxg4 Bxg4 32.Nd3 Qf3 33.Ra8+ Kg7 34.Ra7 Qe4 35.Kh2 Qf3 36.Kg1 Qe4, he is quite lost.) [GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2784)-GM Carlsen (2832), Blitz Game, Paris Grand Chess Tour, France, June 21 2017]. Yes, the last game was played in the same event, just four days before the current game! Speaking of the current game, let’s now return to it.]

10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.O-O Bxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.Re1 b6!? 14.Nd2 Be6 15.Nf1 Rac8 16.Ne3 Ne7 17.Rc1 Ng6 18.g3 Rc7 19.f4 Ne7 20.Bd3 Rfc8 21.Qd2 Bd7 22.Ba6 Rd8 23.Bd3 Qd6 24.f5 Kh8 25.Rf1 Ng8 26.Ng4 b5 27.Ne5 Be8 28.Rce1 Rdc8 29.Qf4 Rd8 30.Re3 f6 31.Ng6+ Bxg6 32.Qxd6 Rxd6 33.fxg6 Rd8 34.Bxb5 Ne7 35.Bd3 Rxc3 36.Rxe7 Rxd3 37.Rfe1 Rf8 38.Rf7 Rg8 39.Rxa7 Rxd4 40.a4 Rg4 41.Rd1 Rxg6 42.Rxd5 Rg4 43.Rdd7 Rb8 44.Kg2 Rb2+ 45.Kf3 h5 46.Rd5 Rb3+ 47.Kg2 Rb2+ 48.Kh3 Rg5 49.Raa5 Rxd5 50.Rxd5 g5 51.g4 Rb3+ 52.Kg2 hxg4 53.Rd4 Kg7 54.Rxg4 Kg6 55.Rc4 Kh5 56.h3 f5 57.Rc8 Rb2+ 58.Kf3 Rb3+ 59.Kg2 Ra3 60.Rh8+ Kg6 61.Ra8 Kf6 62.a5 Ke5 63.a6 Kf4 64.a7 Ra2+ 65.Kf1 Kf3 66.Ke1 f4 67.Rg8 Rxa7 68.Rxg5 Ra1+ 69.Kd2 Kf2 70.h4 Ra3 71.h5 Rh3! 72.Rf5 f3 73.Kd3 Ke1 74.Re5+ Kf1 75.Rf5 Kg2 76.Ke3 f2+ 77.Ke2

2018_06_07
77…f1=N [77…f1=B+ and 77…f1=Q+ 78.Rxf1 Rxh5 are obvious draws. Reportably Nakamura couldn’t find a bishop and didn’t want to promote to a queen, so he made the promotion to a knight (presumeably there was an available knight) to try to secure a draw. He almost made it.] 78.Rf2+ Kg1 79.Rxf1+ Kg2 80.Rf2+ Kg1 81.Rf5 Ra3 82.h6 Rh3 83.Rf6 Kh2 84.Kf2 Rh4 85.Kf3 Kh3 86.Rg6 Ra4? (The problem-like move, 86…Kh2!, is the draw. But how many players would find the move in a blitz game?) 87.h7? (And White missed 87.Rg1 and 87.Rg3+, both winning. Suffice to say Black missed some draws and White missed a few wins.) 87…Rh4 88.Rg7 Rh6? 89.Kf4 Kh4 90.Kf5 Rh5+ 91.Kg6 Kg4 92.Kf7+ 1-0